Most product strategists are prioritising smartphones and tablets over sensor-laden devices (SLDs) such as wearables and embedded devices. Their aim is to make the smartphone the lynchpin of the mobile ecosystem.
In the wake of the LeWeb conference in Paris on 4-6 December, which placed special emphasis on the ‘Internet of things’, it’s worth asking to what extent this approach will be taken up by companies, in particular the exciting-looking idea of ‘wearables’. These are devices worn on or near the body that are embedded with sensors and connectivity, as with Google’s ‘Project Glass’ venture. Although these devices and embedded systems have the potential to transform the way we live and work, the product strategists don’t seem to be in a hurry to go this route. In fact, according to a panel survey carried out by Forrester Research Inc. among 267 digital product strategists*, only 12% of them envisage launching ‘wearable’ products and services in the next five years. Instead, most of them are prioritising the more immediate opportunities offered by smartphones and tablets.
The smartphone, a strategy hub?
In fact the vast majority of the strategists polled (88%) see the smartphone as the product with most potential to the 2017 horizon, followed by the tablet, rated top device by 86% of the interviewees. And when it comes to assessing how ready their companies are today to take advantage of product opportunities on named devices, 61% say they are ready on the smartphone and 60% on the tablet. At the bottom of the scale, only 7% of the firms are ready to take advantage of product opportunities on wearable devices. Even though there are still significant challenges, it seems that the smartphone could become the strategic hub, given its many advantages. Firstly, points out the Forrester report, it can “aggregate data from multiple devices and platforms and is built to integrate more data sources in the future”. Secondly, it can also “piggyback on existing technologies and deliver value this way,” underlines the research firm.
Leveraging existing smartphone infrastructure
Using smartphone infrastructure enables companies to speed up time-to-market and decrease costs, reckons Forrester Research. Taking the example of Google ‘Project Glass’ augmented reality glasses, a standalone product, prototypes are available today, but they’re not only expensive ($1,500 for developers) but still far from being consumer-ready. The report describes this as “an ambitious project and a worthwhile innovation,” but warns that other firms are getting ahead by “leveraging existing smartphone infrastructure – using the display, the processor and the connectivity, rather than replicating those features.” Whatever the arguments, independent investors are clearly keen to get into this field. In the first half of 2012, venture capitalists invested over $700 million in private companies developing smart devices.
*Smart Body, Smart World – Sarah Rotman Epps – from Forrester Research Inc. October 2012